Growing up l lived both on and off reserve, always being proud of who I was but never really knowing what that meant. I have always had a passion for nature and the outdoors and a certain curiosity about how things are all connected. I never would have thought that my inquisitiveness and the connection that I felt to nature would lead me down a path that would present such amazing opportunities for me to learn about my history, my culture and my traditions while also creating a setting for me to share that knowledge with others and embed it in my work.
I have had the privileged of working in my Community for several years and have worn many different hats. This has allowed me the opportunity to learn a wide variety of knowledge and skills and meet a range of interesting and intelligent characters, one of those being Andee Pelan. Andee is a former Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority employee and Latornell Steering Committee Member. She is someone for whom I have a great deal of gratitude and respect. It’s because of her passion as an environmentalist and conservationist and her persistence that I am now writing this blog and sitting as a part of the Latornell Steering Committee.
It was almost a decade ago that I started my environmental career and I met and worked with Andee saving butternut trees and other flora and fauna from the fate of the 407. Not long after this work she provided me with one of my first speaking engagements when she invited me to speak at the Latornell Conservation Symposium in 2010. Being new to the environmental field with little experience and no academic background, I was unaware of the magnitude of this Symposium and what kind of a platform had been presented to me. Intimidated and nervous I muddled my way through my presentation and fled the Nottawasaga grounds. Unbeknown to me at the time, my presentation sparked a great deal of interest in delegates who attended the session and it initiated my networking with non-indigenous governments and organizations. On a couple of occasions, I have since attended this event as both a speaker and a delegate but am one of a handful of Indigenous peoples who have.
Andee often expressed to me over the years that she felt the Indigenous voice was an important component missing in the content as well as the audience at the Latornell Symposium. This coupled with my newfound knowledge about myself and my cultural connections to Mother Earth throughout my Environmental career finally convinced me to give into her requests to become a member of the steering committee. In the Spring of 2017 as a new steering committee member she encouraged me to take advantage of the opportunity to bring the Western Science Conservation World together with the Deep Ways of Knowing and Brilliance of Our Indigenous communities.
As the Latornell Conservation Symposium celebrates its 25th year anniversary and in this time of truth and reconciliation I am honoured to have been offered such a huge platform to invite members of the Indigenous communities out to share our knowledge, traditions and culture with the non-indigenous communities. I also am humbled, grateful as well as hopeful that with the indescribable support that has come from the committee and all of my Networks in the organization of this event it will prove to be meaningful and a ripple effect will be created that will ignite positive change for our seven generations of all Nationalities.
I am super excited to be a part of the 2018 Latornell Conservation Symposium. As a proud Anishnabe Kwe (Frist Nation Women) working in the Environmental field I look forward to the new friendships that will be made, and the opportunity for real reconciliation that will be built on respect, trust, understanding and reciprocity.
Happy Indigenous awareness month and see you November 13-15th at the Nottawasaga Inn, in Alliston, Ontario. Come listen, learn, share, make new friends and be part of history in the making.
Kerry-Ann Charles is a member of the Chippewas of Georgina Island First Nation and an employee of Cambium Aboriginal. She has been working in the Environmental field within her own community as well as with other First Nations Communities since 2009. Kerry-Ann became a member of the Latornell Conservation Symposium organizing committee in the spring of 2017.